Events and Partnerships with Other Schools
Joint events with other schools have created numerous excellent learning experiences over many years. In particular, the Dragon has a close relationship with three primary schools in the Blackbird Leys area of the city, and in 2013 became lead sponsor of the Blackbird Academy Trust* with the deep involvement of Dragon governors, pupils, staff and volunteer parents in the enrichment of these three schools.
The Dragon has worked closely with two organisations - Family Links and the Hamilton Trust - to help inform and resource its activities and relationships with other schools. The following are a selection of sample stories from recent years that illustrate the work of the Dragon in partnerships and events.
*The Blackbird Academy Trust has been in a period of transition since United Learning Trust assumed responsibility for the three schools in September 2018. This does not mark an end to the Dragon School’s engagement with the schools but does mark an end to its role in the formal governance structure. The Dragon remains engaged through outreach, shared events, teacher support to governing bodies and parent volunteers.
Dragon Philharmonic Strings Day
Children from Wolvercote, St Andrew’s, St Barnabas and the Blackbird Academy Trust – Orchard Meadow, Pegasus School and Windale - joined children of the Dragon School for a one day Dragon Philharmonic Strings project.
This outreach project, hosted by the Dragon, brought young strings players together to make music and to develop their sight-reading, improvisation and ensemble playing skills. Professional musicians from both the Dragon and Oxford Philharmonic led a series of performance workshops with small groups of pupils. All the pupils then came to together for an outstanding group performance which included elements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Parents and grandparents attended the performance which conveyed the energy and enthusiasm of the players. It was so uplifting to hear excerpts from the Four Seasons played with such assurance and conviction after a relatively short rehearsal time and it was evident from the children’s smiles, that they were as pleased with the result as the audience.
A Year 4 pupil commented:
"It was an exciting experience! A great opportunity to find out about how it felt to be in an orchestra; in a team all working together, to meet other people you might not know. It felt like a new family and you made new memories."
Visit to St Catherine's College
Thirteen Dragon Year 5 children joined forces with several other Year 5 children from the Blackbird Academy Schools and visited St. Catherine’s College, Oxford as part of their Social Impact Programme. The children were welcomed to St. Catherine’s by the Deputy Academic Registrar.
After a formal introduction the children met a number of undergraduates who explained life at University, the courses they are reading and how they spend their free time. After a number of intriguing questions, the children were taken on a scavenger hunt around the impressive and large campus.
At midday children had an opportunity to design their dream university campus and share ideas with other children in a lively workshop. They were then treated to lunch in Hall, sitting just below the High Table. After lunch, there was a mock graduation ceremony held in the Junior Common Room. Dressed in gowns and mortar boards the children were invited up to receive their certificates.
It was a really enriching day and a wonderful opportunity for all the children involved. Jonathan (Dragon) has decided it is the university for him; “I loved lunch, meeting the other children and seeing where the students wash their laundry”.
The Dragon School were delighted to receive this picture from Jill Hudson, Head Teacher at the Blackbird Academy Trust (BAT). The Dragon is a lead sponsor of BAT and delighted that children from the Academy always take part in the Dragon Sale which raises funds for local charities. On behalf of BAT, Barbara and Cody presented Mary Berry, who kindly opened the Sale, with a Christmas pudding made by children from the Academy. As you can see, the children were delighted to meet Mary; and she was equally delighted to receive their gift.
BAT Choral Day
Fifty children from the Blackbird Academy Trust Schools joined forces with the Dragon’s Middle School Choir and ten professional musicians, to perform some jazz influenced choral repertoire in four part harmony. The children rehearsed together in the morning to perfect the songs It Don’t Mean a Thing, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Java Jive and Chattanooga Choo Choo in two part harmony which they mastered well. After lunch, they were treated to a close harmony performance by ten professional singers whose repertoire ranged from Pop to Classical and they sang Blackbird by The Beatles, especially for our visitors. The final performance was outstanding as children and adults blended together in song and the children should be proud of what they achieved. Watch the video here.
Concert Band and Big Band Visit Orchard Meadow
The Dragon Concert Band and Big Band recently visited Orchard Meadow School to perform to a selection of of children from the Blackbird Academy Trust Schools. The audience enjoyed the wide range of different instruments and joined in playing percussion in one of the pieces. Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic and couldn't help dancing along to Lean on Me, Agua de Beber and Big Spender. The Dragon Saxophone Quartet also played a wonderfully complex arrangement of When I'm Sixty-Four.
Two groups of Dragon children from Year 6 recently linked up with Year 6 children from the Blackbird Academy Trust schools to visit Stratford-on-Avon. The children joined together to learn all about Tudor life at Mary Arden's farm, where William Shakespeare spent much of his early life. The visit included a tour of the farm, a falconry display and an opportunity to learn about managing farm animals, including herding geese. After lunch, the children walked three miles along the tow path of the Oxfordshire Canal, culminating in a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace. It was a lovely day spent with our Academy partners.
Challenging Young Scientists
Over the course of the Easter term, twelve young scientists from the Blackbird Academy Trust joined three Year 6 Dragon School pupils in the Dragon Science Department every Thursday afternoon. Led by the Dragon’s Head of Science, Kate Kettlewell, and supported by three science teachers from the Trust, the sessions followed a simple formula: deeper investigation of a practical-based topic to extend scientific thinking and understanding.
The bar was set high, however, the pupils enjoyed being challenged. They spent the term deducing the relative reactivity of different metals through heating, producing and testing for samples of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, creating indicators using household pigments, and identifying the thief behind the ‘KitKat’ heist using chromatography.
The children enjoyed getting to know each other by learning through teamwork and their enthusiasm was infectious. They returned to their own schools armed with new knowledge and confidence, as well as a certificate to reward their achievement. We hope that these sessions play a small part in inspiring the children to develop a deeper love for science in their future school careers.
Dragon Sale Presentations
On Thursday, 27th February, thirty Dragon pupils from Year 4 to Year 8, as well as five Year 6 pupils from the Blackbird Academy Trust, stood before the Dragon Sale Committee on behalf of their chosen charities.
The committee was deeply moved by the enthusiastic advocacy of each pupil and a few tears were shed as the evidence of how much care and time had been devoted to composing such persuasive presentations became clear. Empathy was balanced with hard facts and many of the charities who may ultimately benefit from the desire of these pupils to help them are currently unaware of the efforts made by the pupils from both schools on their behalf. Final decisions on how funds can be allocated to each charity will be made over the next few weeks.
On Thursday 6th February, 25 Year 5 children from the Blackbird Academy Trust, as well as five Dragon pupils, visited St. Catherine's College (St Catz) in Oxford. The children were welcomed by Dr Kathryn Thompson and her team of academics and students over juice and biscuits. They were then given a lively presentation about the history of the college, college life including the variety of societies, sports, drama, music, as well as the main differences between School and University. The children then had a 'scavenger hunt' tour around the College and finally attempted to design a University Prospectus using information provided in their “goody bags”. All the children were extremely engaged and asked many thoughtful and interesting questions. They also enjoyed the opportunity to learn together and consider their future. It was a very interesting morning and everyone especially enjoyed the lunch alongside St Catz students. Thanks go to St Catz for offering this inspiring trip and for the very warm welcome.
We had a brilliant visit to St Catz and enjoyed meeting the children from the other schools. I am really greatful to the students at St Catz for making it such a memorable trip.
Fin, Year 5, Dragon School
We had an amazing time at St Catz. It was very enjoyable learning about the university and meeting new children. Thank you for such an interesting and wonderful day.
Katie, Year 5, Dragon School
I really enjoyed my visit to St.Catherine's College. I learnt about the courses that they offer and the facilities that are available. I particularly liked the library, but enjoyed visiting the students accommodation too. It was fun to see how they lived away from home. The Scavenger Hunt meant we went all over the college answering clues. It seemed much bigger than the Dragon. It made us think about our future and what opportunities are available.
Joseph, Year 5, Dragon School
On Tuesday, 4th February, Dragons joined forces with children from six local state schools to work together with professional musicians from the Dragon and Oxford Philomusica in a day of music-making for wind and brass instrumentalists. Children in Years 4, 5 and 6 were involved in the day, which is an on-going initiative to bring together young musicians in Oxford to develop musicianship and ensemble playing skills.
A piece was commissioned for the day by composer John Madden so as well as making new friends and learning new skills, the children were part of a world premiere. The children learnt the piece in their groups and then joined forces to perform in a workshop setting. The emphasis of the day was to give our children more musical opportunities and ensemble playing experience, rather than to give polished performances with only two hours of rehearsal time.
All of the children thoroughly enjoyed the day and for our visitors from the Academy Schools, it was their first chance at playing an instrument, which they will now continue with at their schools. It was an extremely rewarding day for all and thank you to all the staff and musicians both in the various participating schools and at Oxford Philomusica. Read a piece in the Oxford Times here.
The children are still buzzing! Thank you so much for such a wonderful day!
Francesca Jenkins, St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School
Our children had an excellent time and left enthused about orchestral playing! A couple have also expressed interest in learning instruments they had not seen before the workshops.
Matthew Coatsworth, Wolvercote Primary School
My children were made to feel very welcome. It was such a good opportunity for them to play alongside professionals.
Louise Graham, St Andrew's School
Big Band and Concert Band perform to the Academy Schools
On Friday 31 January, the Big Band and Concert Band visited the three Academy Schools of Pegasus, Windale and Orchard Meadow to perform some of their music ahead of the tour to Belgium at Easter. For some of the children it provided a fantastic opportunity to hear the various instruments involved and Mr Smith helped them to get to know the band by introducing all the different instruments – it was an educational experience for all. The bands played fantastically and with such enthusiasm and energy and we thank them for taking time out of their busy schedules to make this extremely worthwhile visit. Listen to an excerpt below:
Stratford Trip with Partner Schools
The school was delighted to accept a kind invitation from Jill Hudson, Executive Head of the Blackbird Academy Trust, for groups of Dragon pupils to accompany pupils from each of the Academy schools to explore the life of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Over three days Year 7 Dragon pupils joined pupils from Orchard Meadow, Windale and Pegasus exploring the delights of Mary Arden’s Farm. The children were very interested to discover how amazingly resourceful and eco-friendly people were in the 16th century, and were able to consider the parallels between their approaches and those of the Dragon School’s eco initiatives. They also took part in a fascinating workshop of birds of prey in action, taking especial note of the different techniques birds used for hunting, how people in the 16th century harnessed their skills and which birds of prey could get you into trouble.
The trip provided many chances for children from each of the partner schools to get to know each other. After having lunch together each party strolled along the towpath for the three miles into Stratford-upon-Avon watching canal boats navigate the many locks, picking blackberries and bursting into the occasional song. It was wonderful to see the aims of the partnership being fulfilled so soon, as the pupils formed new friendships, sharing their ideas and adventures while learning together.
These were the first steps in what we hope will be a very fruitful journey and it was excellent to see so many smiling faces at the end of the day. Thank you to the Academy pupils and staff for making us feel so welcome.
I really enjoyed walking along the canal. I sat with the children from Windale School at lunch and we compared schools. It was nice to meet them.
Anna, Year 6, Dragon School